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Northern Irish Record Book of 1639

great book imageThe County of Londonderry is in northern Ireland. In the 17th century, a book was compiled of individuals, locations (towns) and businesses in Londonderry. It was actually of survey done by the Honourable Irish Society, compiled in 1639 by a Commission instituted under the Great Seal by Charles I, of all those estates in Derry managed by the City of London through the Irish Society and the City of London livery companies. So it does not cover every individual. However, the written information for that time period is outstanding. It had been in the City of London when in February 1786, a fire in the Chamber of London at the Guildhall in the City of London destroyed most of the early records of the Irish Society, so that very few 17th century documents remain. This ‘Great Parchment Book‘ of 1639 did survive but was heavily damaged. The 165 pages were kept but not until modern times did researchers have the equipment and knowledge to preserve, then transcribe these pages using computer digital imaging to convert the hand written text into readable and searchable digital text.

Finding names of locations / towns such as Artra, Salters Town, Hereford, Silver Streets in Londonderry, and Monnymore is a separate tab to select. There are also companies / businesses listed such as haberdasher (hat makers), clothworkers, and skinner, a separate tab. Of the best is to first investigate individual names. A whole listing of surnames is provided that come directly from the Great Parchment Book. Go to a beginning letter such as “N”, look at the list of names, keep in mind the spellings can vary. Click on a selection such as ‘Nobbes, Francis (shoemaker)’. Then appears ‘City of Londonderry A5r’ – click that. You will see two versions – the original transcript and the modern transcript. Scroll down to see the listing you were looking for, several were on a page. There is also to the right an image of that original page from the Great Parchment Book. For Francis Nobbes, here is a portion of the modern transcript:

William Sansum and Francis Nobbs 20.

The aforesaid twentieth day of August, the aforesaid commissioners for and on His Majesty’s behalf by virtue of the said commission, and William Sansum of the late city of Londonderry, smith, and Francis Nobbs of the said late city, shoemaker, do conclude and agree that the said William and Francis and their assigns shall have and hold one messuage or tenement with the appurtenances  […] late city of Londonderry…”

Francis NobbsCombine by seeing the actual pages is fascinating. The page image can be enlarged to see most details. One interesting aspect the site provides is that certain phrases, words which need additional explanation because those terms no longer are used is explained by placing the computer mouse over the term.

I have two surnames on my family tree which were checked: MaCartney and Henry, but I did not find a listing. But then the furthest I had gone with the names was to 1790 in Londonderry, a hundred and fifty years after the 1639 book. However, it is a wonderful resources, fascinating to explore such a vintage book.

There will be the Great Parchment Book Day at London Metropolitan Archives on July 25, 2014.

Photos: The hand written pages from the book and the page relating to Nobbes, Francis (shoemaker)’.


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